Monday, 8 October 2018

Recomended Reads: Fall

Hello Friends! And Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians! 

So I have clearly been struggling to update as much as I would like - my new job has been just as demanding as I expected and I really haven't been doing as much reading as I like! I hope to get to my monthly book updates written soon, but alas I have no idea when. 

However; a few weeks ago it officially became FALL! One of my favourite seasons (probably after winter) and the time of year that has my absolute favourite clothing - sweaters, and tights and scarves and boots! I absolutely adore fall, and I think it is one of the best seasons to curl up with a book and some cider and just read. 

Generally in fall I tend to read spooky paranormal books (in honour of Halloween), books about witches and witchcraft, historical fiction (though that is usually later in November), and mystery books. 

Since I read so much historical fiction during the fall and winter, I'll probably do a separate post like last year suggesting some of my favourites (see last years post HERE) historical reads, but also include a few in this list as well. 

Classics

Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery
One of my favourite spring and summer reads as well. Anne of Green Gables is an all-year seasonal read because L.M. Montgomery goes into such detail about the beauties of the Canadian seasons. And it has the memorable quote by Anne "I'm so glad we live in a world where there are Octobers," which seems like the perfect quip for fall. The first book is my favourite, but it is a lovely heartwarming series to binge read in the fall!

The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
A classic gothic tale following the depths of debauchery a young and beautiful man goes when he is gifted a magical painting that absorbs all the ugliness of his sins. It is a fantastic tale, but with the fantasy blended in so well with the Victorian backdrop it is set it. It is as outlandish a story as its author was known to be, and has some really creepy moments. I wouldn't classify it as full horror, but if you are looking for a spooky Halloween read, that isn't too scary, but has some horror-based undertones I highly recommend. Also if you are a fan of the TV series Penny Dreadful I highly recommend reading this book to see how Dorian Gray is truly meant to be (I'm always annoyed with tv/movie depictions of him). 

Childrens/YA
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
I've been devouring most of Neil Gaiman's written works this year and I absolutely adored this story about Coraline's adventures when she moves with her family into a dream-land with her "Other Mother". It is fantastically creepy for a children story, and I highly recommend the audiobook - narrated by Neil Gaiman himself. I loved the animated movie of this story, but loved the book even more (the book is always better) and found it twice as creepy. The Other Mother is one of the best childhood story villains I've read in a while and she is deliciously scary. A great book for all ages just before Halloween. 

Jackaby by William Ritter 
Jackaby follows the tale of Abigail Rook, who comes into the employ of the mysterious and possibly insane R.F. Jacakby shortly after her arrival in the small New England town of New Fiddleham in 1892. Shortly into her employ, Abigail discovers that Jackaby's strange behaviour is because he can see the magical creatures in the world others cannot - and introduces Abigail to a world filled with bloodthirsty fairies, werewolves and other creatures that go bump in the night. I really enjoyed the first book in this series (the rest was just okay) because it was a delightful mystery read with murderous creatures around every bend, and a delightful very Dr. Who-esque male lead. I also love that Abigail and Jacakby are not romantically involved AT ALL, and there is in fact only a very little light romance with side characters. It's a wonderfully refreshing tale I think, and very different from most YA these days (which is predominately romance-heavy I find).

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend 
Nevermoor is probably going to be one of my favourite reads of 2018. It was absolutely magical. I listened to the audiobook and read it on my kindle (I recommend both) and loved it in each format). It has been described numerous times as a book for Harry Potter lovers, and I actually agree with that assessment. Morrigan Crow is the unluckiest girl, born on Eventide she is blamed for the the bad things that happen in her town. For-told to die on her 11th birthday (makes you think of Harry Potter right?), Morrigan is instead whisked away by an engimatic saviour, Jupiter North, to compete in a series of trials in order to become a member of the Wunderous Society. It is a magical, enchanting and thrilling story about a young girls discovering magic, making friends and being thrust into a delightful world. It is very similar to Harry Potter, without ripping it off I think, and I think the fact that the next book in this middle-grade series is being released right around Halloween is a good indicator that it's an excellent fall read. 


Adult
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 
The circus arrives without warning. So begins this story about a magic competition between two star-crossed lovers and their teachers within the confines of a magical travelling circus. It is probably one of the most beloved standalone out there, and deserves every single ounce of praise it receives. It is whimsical and the writing is lush and descriptive. it also has a heart breaking love story that will keep you turning page after page. But the real star of this book is the setting - the magical black and white circus which is so real that it comes off the page with each description of the sights and smells. You will wish that a magical travelling circus appeared in your town each year when you are done. 

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss
The best way to describe this book is The League of Extraordinary Gentleman but with all the female characters from Gothic literature. It is exactly that and it is exactly as amazing as it sounds. I recommend reading this in physical format as the audiobook is a bit confusing with the way the book is written, and also because the cover is GORGEOUS (and partially why I bought it). The story starts with Mary Jekyll trying to track down her father's former associate Mr. Hyde and instead discovering his daughter Diana Hyde, and eventually meeting a whole cast of characters including Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau and Justine Frankenstein, not to mention Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. These are fun mystery books revolving around all the famous females of gothic literature and I highly recommend it to those who love re-tellings and gothic tales. They are light hearted and good fun, and the next book in the series features Van Helsing's daughter so like.. it's just going to get better. 

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka. J.K. Rowling)
I actually really enjoy Rowling's outing into adult mystery - and I'm not just saying that as a Harry Potter fan. This book follows P.I. Cormoran Strike and his new assistant Robin as they look into the murder of a famous model. The first book was really good, and drew me in and the rest of the series just get better. It is an engaging, and the characters are as unique and well drawn as ever, all written with Rowling's distinct style. I adore the second book in the series, The Silkworm, even more, but you have to start from the beginning with this one! It's a great series to binge read this fall (and who doesn't love a little murder in the fall) and the fourth book, Lethal White, just hit shelves! 

Friday, 20 July 2018

Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag (2018)

Hi Friends!

So... first off I need to apologize for not updating for MONTHS. I was in the middle of studying for the bar exam and then I started a new job and life got crazy busy! But I am back now - and I will be doing like 6 monthly wrap-ups ASAP with reviews. I PROMISE. But because I've been gone for so long I thought that my first post back should be a wrap-up of the first half of the reading year! For me this is going to be from January to mid-July when I am writing (I know... not technically half the year but GIVE ME A BREAK). So I decided to do the Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag (See Original Tag Video here), which I am not technically tagged to do but WHATEVER I thought I would just do a general overall update about my reading so far this year and this seemed a good way to do it! So on with the Tag!


1. Best book so far of 2018
Circe by Madeline Miller. Hands down. HANDS DOWN. I listened to this on audiobook which I HIGHLY recommend and I was addicted. I stayed up until 4 in the morning listening to it. I adored every single second of this retelling of Circe, famous for her role in The Odyssey. It is a beautiful wonderful, feminist re-telling and I loved it so much that when I finished I immediately went out and bought a hardcover edition and a kindle edition because I need all the media formats of this book.

2. Best Sequel of 2018
So I have two for this one - the best sequel published in 2018 that I've read so far is A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir - it was even better than A Torch Against the Night, which I loved! It was addictive and non-stop action and it finally, finally allowed me to like Helene as a character! FINALLY. I get why people like her (though I still love Laia forever and I will fight everyone about this).
The best sequel I read that was not published in 2018 was The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (aka. JK Rowling). I liked The Cuckoos Calling, the first book in the Cormoran Strike mystery series but I absolutely adored The Silkworm and could not put it down. It made the series go from a might-read to a must-read for me.

3. A New release you haven't read yet, but you want to
My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadowes - I loved My Lady Jane and I was so excited for this release. I just picked it up the other day and am only a few chapters in so far.

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of 2018
The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee


5. Biggest Disappointment of 2018
Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan or The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. Both of these books I expected to love and they have been on my TBR for years. Both have some buzz-words for me - Midnight Never Come  deals with faeries in the Tudor era (like HELLO YES PLEASE GIMME), and The Goose Girl is a fairy tale retelling. However I found both of them to be rather dull, and not fast-paced or exciting to read. Midnight Never Come had a terrible romance element and The Goose Girl felt juvenile. I took both series off my TBR after reading these books.


6. Biggest Surprise of 2018
Again I have multiple reads for this, and after narrowing it down I would have to go with 2 books: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender and Far from the Tree. Both are books in genres I rarely read (Magical Realism for the former, and Contemporary for the latter) but I absolutely devoured both books in like... one day. I found both of them heart-wrenchingly beautiful, and honestly pretty quick reads. I don't often read books like these two but when I like them I love them. Both have stuck with me and are beautiful explorations (in very different ways) of family and love.


7. Favourite New Author (or New to You)
Neil Gaiman - I had never read anything by Neil Gaiman until this year and now I've finished like 5 of his books and I have plans to read pretty much everything he's ever written. He is one of those authors who is so talented and unique that he transcends genre and can write pretty much anything... and he has.


8. Newest Fictional Crush
Galen from Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen. I was really surprised by Reign the Earth, I was expecting it to be a boring YA fantasy story but it actually surprised me and I found it very enjoyable. I think the biggest reason was the main love story - I was in the mood for it and the two main characters had great chemistry. And Galen, the main love interest, is just swoon worthy. He's protective but in a way which respects one's choices and decisions. He's also broody (which I always seem to like in my male heroes).
9. Newest Favourite Character 
Circe from Circe or Evelyn Hugo from The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo - both are strong, independent women who learned how to make their own lives for themselves in very male-dominated worlds. Circe, a witch cast out by the gods, is not the she-demon of Odyssey legend but is instead a complex character done wrong by multiple men throughout her life but who nonetheless is caring and giving and only lashes out to protect herself. Evelyn Hugo on the other hand is a bitch who know what she wants - to be famous and to stay famous. She is a very complicated character and at times hard to like, but god, she was wonderful to read about. You can't help but fall in love with her the way her fictional fans have (in the book she's the equivalent of Marilyn Monroe).

10. A book that made you cry
Code Name Verity - I was tearing up on public transit and had to stop listening to the audiobook. It was so beautiful but so so sad.


11. A book that made you happy
Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow - I never read middle-grade but after reading all the rave-reviews and comparisons to Harry Potter I had to pick this up. And I loved it! It was funny and whimsical and absolutely endearing. It was such a wonderful tale, with a great message about acceptance and being yourself - all wrapped up in a magical world bubble of good feelings.

12. Favourite book to film adaptation
ummm..... haven't watched any this year honestly. I guess the Shadowhunters TV Show? - That's the only thing I watch and even though I know it is TERRIBLE I still watch it.
Ignore my crappy photo and look at the pretty book. 

13. Favourite review you've written?
I've been so bad these past few months with updating so I'm just going to skip this.

14. Most beautiful book you've bought so far
Penguin Drop Caps Edition of Pride and PrejudiceLOOK AT HOW PRETTY. LOOK AT IT. The books edges are sprayed red and the cover is a buttery hardcover and I love it. My Pride and Prejudice collection is getting a bit out of hand at this point honestly.

15. What books do you need to read by the end of the year
My list of books and classics to read in 2018! (See here and here). This is a pretty long list still: The Handmaids Tale, Discovery of Witches Trilogy, Shadow Scale, Queen of the Tearling Trilogy, Ice Like Fire, Frost Like Night, Finish the Raven Cycle, The Hangman's Daughter series , Falling Kingdoms series , Green Rider, American Gods, ACOWAR, Finnikin of the Rock, Anne of Avonlea,  Anne of the Island, Little Women, Crime and Punishment, Island of Doctor Moreau, The Time Machine, Phantom of the Opera and A Tale of Two Cities. So yeah - quite a few left to read!

That's my mid-year freakout of books! I promise to update more frequently and hope to have some of my monthly wrap-ups from February to June up very soon! (I PROMISE!)


Saturday, 24 March 2018

Recommended Reads: Spring

In the spring I like to read light, happy books - things like romantic classics, fairy tales or anything with a happy ending and a touch of fantasy! These are just a few of my favourite reads that I think are perfect for spring.

Classics

Anything by Jane Austen
To me, Jane Austen just screams spring. Whether it's because the stories take place in the English countryside, or because the book covers themselves are always light and floral and pretty - I just love me some Jane Austen in the spring. My personal favourites are Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion - both are beautiful love stories, one about discovering new love from dislike and one about rediscovering old love. Mansfield Park and Emma (the two books shown above) are the two Jane Austen classics I hope to get too this spring. 

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
A lovely children's book about a secret garden (it's in the title, so no spoilers). The book itself explores childhood neglect and the healing powers of friendship, love and the outdoors. It's all about new beginnings and rejuvenation, and that seems like a very appropriate spring theme to read about. While the children are some of the biggest spoiled brats I've ever read about - I did enjoy this book and think it's a quick spring read!


Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte 
Another book by a classic female author - Jane Eyre is, arguably, one of the first truly feminist novels. The primary character, Jane Eyre, is an independent woman - who does not not compromise her beliefs or herself in the pursuit of love. While a long, and sometimes slow novel, it is a book about the power of one woman over the trials and tribulations she faces in her life. Jane is an amazing heroine - and her journey of self-discovery, self-reflection and love seems like a great book of discovery for this season that celebrates new beginnings. 


Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - this weird and zany story by Lewis Carroll has enough of the mad and fantasy to be a wonderful book to read while sitting in a park. It's a short novel, and it's full of madcap characters and crazy riddles and poems. 

YA
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine 
Yet another fairy tale retelling, this one perhaps one of the most famous. Though it was butchered by the movie (which I enjoy but realize is NOTHING like the book) the book Ella Enchanted is amazing - it is about a strong young woman discovering her inner strength in a very cruel and trying situation. In particular, the romance with Prince Char is so well done, sweet, and truly well-developed and believable - it is not well replicated in the movie at all. Seriously, the book this time is so much better - a story full of magic, romance and strong heroines and all about discovering your inner power!

The Secret Countess by Eva Ibbotson 
Or pretty much anything by Eva Ibbotson. Ibbotson's books are historical fiction stories usually set between the 1920s and 1940s. The Secret Countess follows the story of a refugee Russian duchess who takes work as a scullery maid at an English manor. The story is light and sweet, the characters are enchanting, and the romance is more romantic than fiery - definitely the sweet sort of love story I enjoy reading in the spring. 

Adult
The Shadow Reader trilogy by Sandy Williams 
This is one of my favourite faerie urban-fantasy series I've ever read. The series explores the adventures of McKenzie, a shadow reader, who can read between the dimensions of our world and the world of faeries, and can see the fair folk. For me, faeries always see to make me think of springtime and this is a wonderful adult faerie novel for people looking to expand beyond YA-faeries. The books have adventure, love triangles and a badass female heroine and for the most part they are fairly YA-friendly - with little of the erotica elements common in many other urban-fantasy novels. 


Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn 
This is probably the most underrated fantasy series I've ever read. It has such a complex and wonderfully built world - with it's own well laid out religion and magic system that is both well-explained without being an info-dump. Furthermore the stories focus on strong female characters and try to create strong female friendships, and while romance exists it is never the central focus of the series. The first book, Troubled Waters, is a necessary read to introduce yourself to this wonderful world by Sharon Shinn. With it's strong ties to "elemental magic" the magic of the book talks a lot about the earth and the elements, and discusses land and nature in a way that, to me, is very reminiscent of spring. 


Uprooted by Naomi Novik
While this is not my favourite stand-alone fantasy, I can't deny its popularity, or that it is a fantastic spring read. This book deals with an evil dark forest that is slowly taking over the countryside, and has earth magic that is so well described you can imagine the taste of the magic at certain points. It is earthy, and well-written, and is highly popular - the characters just weren't my cup of tea. However; I believe that most people would enjoy this book more than I, and I believe it makes a great darker read for spring, with a sinister forest that takes over - perfect for when the world is waking up from winter.


ANYTHING BY JULIET MARILLIER
Books: Shadowfell Trilogy, Daughter of the Forest, Deerskin, Wildwood Dancing, Heart's Blood
While I was making this list, one name kept popping up to me - Juliet Marillier. All of her books just scream "spring" to me - I think because most of the ones I've read are fairy tale retellings, and often deal with self-discovery and new beginnings. Furthermore, so many of them deal with dark, lush forests and leafy green settings that simply seem spring-y. The above listed books are just a few of my favourites by this amazing author - but pretty much anything by her you can't go wrong. While I do place warnings on some of these books (Daughter of the Forest and Deerskin) for rape and abuse, Wildwood Dancing and the Shadowfell Trilogy are YA novels and are less dark in the plot without sacrificing the emotional punch Marillier's stories. Heart's Blood and Wildwood Dancing are, in particular, two of my favourite fairy tale retellings ever - they are magical, but with such real and understandable characters who tear out your heart. Just go read Marillier because she is so underrated in the blogging community!

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Badass Lady Heroines

Today is International Women's Day and in honour of this wonderful day to celebrate women and their achievements, and to discuss women and their role in society I thought I would highlight some of my favourite female characters. For me, a badass heroine doesn't necessarily mean someone who is physically badass - it is a woman who is her own person, who breaks barriers and boundaries, who fights for her beliefs. There are so many different types of women and types of female characters in novels that I want to highlight all the badass ladies I can! So here are just a few of the female book heroines I love and admire. 

Jim Kay's Illustration of McGonagall
1. Minerva McGonagall from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
I mean I could pretty much put any female Harry Potter character here - I love both Hermione Granger and Luna Lovegood to bits and think they are amazing role models for young girls and women as they embrace themselves and never act different to fit in. But I wanted to highlight another female character in the Harry Potter series and that is Minerva McGonagall. McGonagall initially comes off as a rather strict school marm persona - but you soon learn that underneath she is a kind and courageous woman with a heart of gold. McGonnagall has such a tragic back story (go read it on Pottermore if you haven't had a chance) and is an example of a strong woman who rose above her tragedy, who is both powerful and smart and unashamed of this. So few stories feature strong older women, and McGonnagall's portrayal has stayed with me. She is exactly the kind of woman I want to be when I get older.  I love the fact that she is unapologetic about her beliefs and her loyalties, that she is strict but fair, and that it is never in doubt or hidden how absolutely brilliant she is (hello, she's one of nine registered animagus - she is brilliant!). Professor McGonnagall is much admired by Hermione, and so you know she's a badass when another paragon of female awesomeness looks up to her. 

Keria Knightley as Lizzie Bennet in the 2005 adaptation
2. Elizabeth Bennet from Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
So as everyone should probably know by now my favourite book of all time is Pride & Prejudice. I know some people dislike the romance heavy marriage-focused style of Austen's books, but I find that her female characters are still strong and engaging. Elizabeth Bennett in particular stands out as a heroine unafraid to speak her mind, even to men, and to stand up both for herself and her sisters. She is loyal (look how she is with Jane), and intelligent with a quick wit and a sharp tongue. And she absolutely loves to read (something I related to so much when I first read the novel and it really stuck with me). Furthermore, Elizabeth has flaws - she easily judges others (prejudice) and must learn to overcome her quick opinions in order to grow as a person. Every person has flaws and to see this protrayed as a point of growth in a novel is refreshing in a world where so many female heorines are simply empty foils for readers to place themselves into. 

3. Fire from Fire by Kristin Cashore
Fire is proof that you don't have to be an assassin to be a badass. Fire is a monster, a beautiful creature with the ability to control and influence the minds of others. However; despite this immense power, Fire uses her gift rarely and only for the greater good. While I've heard some say Fire is meek compared to Katsa from Graceling, I think Fire is simply another way of being a strong female character. She is physically strong (and good with a bow and arrow) but what is emphasised more is her compassion and kindness and her strength. Fire doesn't overpower people unless necessary and instead tries to understand others and help them. She is an excellent example of someone who is diplomatic and chooses words over swords - and for that I think she is an excellent heroine, one that is very different from the usual fantasy heroines we read about. And if that isn't enough, she's also a badass woman of colour (don't let the book cover mislead you - it's mentioned specifcally in the novel) and that is still so rare in high fantasy. 

Megan Fellows (Canadian Queen) as Anne Shirley in the 1985 TV series 
4. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
I fell in love with the Anne Shirley character when I was 8 yrs old and went to PEI for the first time and saw the Anne of Green Gables musical. She just seemed so amazing and fearless - and I related to her so hard when she smashed her slate over Gilbert's head after he teased her (I had wanted to do that to so many boys). While I wasn't always a huge fan of the Anne novels (I am now thankfully), I always was fascinated and drawn in by Anne the character - as were many people in the world. Anne is a force of nature - she is passionate and intelligent, with a temper as red as her hair. I love her faults and her tantrums, and how through the novels we see her grow and mature from this. I loved that she was top of her class with Gilbert and that she NEVER dumbed herself down (which I can't thank Lucy Maud Montgomery enough for - a celebration of smart women in the early 1900s is no joke). Anne is a character so many children can relate to, and her journey through the Anne novels is a delight to witness. 

5. Kestrel from The Winner's Trilogy by Marie Rutkowski
Kestrel is one of my favourite female heroines in YA. She is such a complex character - someone who is smart, cunning and fearless. She uses her brain to outwit her opponents, and through The Winners Trilogy is the brain behind so many operations. Even her own father is aware of her intelligence and wishes to use it for military advantage. Kestrel is also a character with faults - she is addicted to winning at all costs and commits some pretty atrocious acts throughout the novels. She is certainly flawed, and in the second book is almost an anti-hero in a way. And yet her struggles are relatable, and she never changes her core self, even after the heart breaking last novel she remains true to who she is as a person. It takes a lot to stand up for your beliefs, particularly against your country when you think they are wrong - but Kestrel does it with strength poise and cunning.

Fan Art of BFFs Inej and Nina **
6. Inej Ghafa and Nina Zenik from the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo
Inej and Nina are AMAZING. They are absolutely wonderful female characters who are both separate and distinct in their personalities and yet portray such amazing role models. Inej is such a strong character - who is clearly suffering from trauma over sexual abuse - and is also a skilled thief. She is strong, yet surprisingly vulnerable and she inspires even the darkest of souls (Kaz Brekker) to care for her with her pure heart and core of steel. And then we have Nina, my sweet waffle Nina, who I love more than any other character in Six of Crows. Nina is the kind of person who can make any situation light hearted - she is funny and intense and flirtatious and throws off all the men around her. And on top of that she can stop your heart with a flick of her fingers. I love that Nina embraces her appearance and uses it to her advantage - and isn't shamed for doing so. And the thing I love both about these women is how much they love each other, and what good friends they are to each other. I hope in future novels we see an Inej and Nina reunion because they are BFF goals. 
** ALSO - if anyone knows the artist for this fanart PLEASE LET ME KNOW. I would love to credit them properly, as I just had it pinned from a tumblr page that had no mention of the artist

Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre in the 2011 adaptation
7. Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Finally, we have another classic heroine from English literature - Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre is a feminist icon pretty much. Her story is filled with tragedy and yet Jane is unwavering in who she is and what she is about. Jane is aware of her strengths and weaknesses, and embraces every aspect of herself. She does not compromise herself for a man (Mr. Rochester is the worst I'm sorry), nor does she fall swooning into his arms. When the twist of the novel comes, Jane remains strong and does what she needs to for herself - without the help of any of the men in her life. And at the end of the novel, Jane does as she chooses and as she wishes (even though some readers like myself, may hate the choice) and you have to respect her for that. Jane is an individual who knows her self and her worth and never accepts anything less than that. And what could be more badass than that amount of confidence? 

So those are 8 badass ladies from books that I admire and look up to! This list should have been harder to make because there are so many awesome female characters out there, but surprisingly these were the ones which first popped into my head and which stuck there while I was writing this post. 

Sunday, 11 February 2018

January 2018 Wrap-Up

So I started off my reading year in 2018 super strong! I read an insane amount of books for the month (on top of taking legal qualifying exams - which were stressful as hell). I completed 16 books in the month of January and most of them (10!) were Non-YA! Some were even non-fiction! Given my Bookish Resolutions for the year I am extremely happy with that start. However; I did break one of my bookish resolutions and ended up buying quite a few books this month... so oops. In my defense, some were for free, and I didnt buy as many as normal but I still clearly will have to work to control myself next month so that I don't spend my limited funds on all the books I want. 

Books I Read
# of Books Read: 16 (HOLY CRAP?!?)
YA v. Non-Ya: 6 Ya, 10 Non-YA



1. Monarchy by David Starkey (Audiobook, Narrated by David Starkey) - 4/5 Stars

David Starkey is on of my all-time favourite historians. I have watched his BBC documentaries at least a 100 times, and I absolutely adore his voice. SO when I found out that he reads an audiobook of his work... I simply had to have it. This book was a more condensed version of his famous documentary series - Monarchy - and is the period from the rise of the Tudors to the modern age. Once again, Starkey manages to write history in a captivating and fascinating way, without bogging us down with inane details. His voice is just as soothing as ever and after a stressful day I found myself craving time to just come home and listen to him. 


2. Fire by Kristin Cashore - 5/5 stars
Totally not planned, I re-read the first two books in the Graceling Realm Trilogy at the beginning of January. Fire is still one of my absolute favourite books of all time. Re-reading this, I did notice that it was a lot slower paced than I remembered and that one of my favourite characters (Archer) was.... not as charming as I remember from the last time I read this a few years ago. However; I still overall love this story about Fire and her quest for freedom and acceptance, and I still adore the slow-burn romance. This novel is such a feminist fantasy gem and I wish more people read it. I also wish Kristin Cashore would release more novels sets in this world! Three is not enough!


3. Graceling by Kristin Cashore - 4.5/5 stars
This is the first book in the Graceling Realm Trilogy, and once again it was a wonderfully feminist book to re-read. Katsa is a take-no-prisoners, bad ass heroine who slowly regains her humanity throughout the story after years of being treated as nothing better than a thug. Po is my favourite character in the whole story - I think he is wonderfully swoon worthy and not your typical male YA love interest. He understands Katsa's desires and wants and respects her abilities. The only reason this isn't a full 5 stars is because there were a few minor things here and there that annoyed me - I did find that Katsa felt the need to put other women down a lot and maintained her whole "not like other girls" demeanour. For a book that is so feminist that's obviously a problem, but I attribute it more to the fact this was written years ago.


4. Harry Potter: A History of Magic by JK Rowling, The British Library - 4/5 Stars
This is the companion novel released by the British Library to coincide with their exhibition celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Harry Potter. Obviously, once I got it for Christmas I had to read it ASAP. This was different than I was expecting, I thought there would be more about how JK Rowling developed the world, but there was simply a lot of history regarding magic, some of which Rowling used in the world of Harry Potter. However; I did still really enjoy reading through this and immersing myself in the world of Harry - I particularly love that the book was divided into the school subjects and loved reading Rowling's original drafts, drawings and notes. It was a nice glimpse into the world Harry Potter, although as a member of Pottermore I definitely didn't learn anything new that I hadn't before. Overall, it was a fine edition to my Harry Potter collection. 



5. The Bear and Nightingale by Katherine Arden - 4/5 stars

This book took me a while to get into - it is definitely a book you have to be in the mood for and for the longest time I wasn't in the right mood to read it. It took a dark snowy night for me to really begin to engage with the story and to become completely immersed in this fantastic Russian-set fantasy. I curled up in my bed with some tea while a blizzard was outside and the atmosphere of the story just swallowed me up. This is a beautiful novel. I've said the word atmosphere already but there is no better way to describe this book - it was atmospheric in every sense of the word. It is not an easy book to read - and many times I was frustrated by the small-minded characters and religious fanaticism. But at the same time, it was well-written, and  the characters motivations were understandable even though they drove you mad. I loved our main character Vasya, she is an independent and modern spirit who is trapped in medieval Russia. She is exactly how I think all fantasy writers should write their "special" female heroines - she was admirable and strong, but still had her faults and failures. I also really enjoyed the villain characters - the stepmother and the priest are the WORST and multiple times I was so enraged by their behaviour I had to put the book down. But at the same time, Katherine Arden has written them to be complex and compelling villains - and while you hate them you still sometimes sympathise with them. This book had moments that were so hard to read because they were so real - Katherine Arden truly captured the spirit that is how awful people can be to each other, and in doing so has captured beautifully the very essence of humanity. It was a very moving read to find myself hating the villains but also pitying them - in a way I rarely do. I also was amazed how much was conveyed in this novel though it was so short - much longer fantasy works have achieved much less world-building. Overall I really enjoyed the story. The only things I disliked was I found the story to be rather slow-going at first, it took me about 100 pages before it became un-putdownable, and the story felt somewhat incomplete. I realise that there are two more books in the series, but this first novel felt like a very long prologue to a larger adventure. I have already bought the next book in the series and look forward to reading it soon! 


6. Fearless by Jennifer Jenkins - 3/5 Stars
Every once in a while I pick up a series written by an indie author because sometimes I will discover a new favourite series (like the Air Awakens series by Elise Kova). A few years back I picked up Nameless by Jennifer Jenkins and really enjoyed the story - it's a very Romeo and Juliet story that is set in an rather sketchily laid out fantasy world in which various tribes battle and rule for dominance. One tribe, the Ram, has come to dominate all the others - the Kodiak, the Raven and the Wolf - and taken many of their members for their slaves. The series begins with a Wolf spy, named Zo, entering Ram territory in the guise of a healer, and and striking up an unexpected friendship with a Ram soldier named Gryphon - all while risking her life trying to protect her sister and her people by spying on the Ram. The first book in the series was very engaging, but upon re-read I noticed a lot more flaws than I did the first time around. However I still really enjoyed it - and the slow-burn romance - even though the world-building was poor and very unclear. The second book expanded on the world but was much more meh for me. This third book was the conclusion novel and was equally meh - it was fine, but nothing spectacular. The romance became a bit stagnant and I found the politics to be much more frustrating this time around then the past - and also I found it a bit repetitive of the issues we already encountered in previous books. I was still very bothered by the complete and utter lack of world-building, this is a very strange world Jenkins's has created but we are given absolutely no details about it! It was a fine conclusion to a series, but a 3 star read for me is usually a book that is just fine but not spectacular. I will keep an eye out for Jennifer Jenkins' works though, because she does write quite well and a new indie author is always fun to discover. 



7. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan - 2.5/5 stars
I have heard nothing but good things about Rick Riordan books for years, but I am sad to say that my first venture into his world was a disappointing one. This book, which is not a long book by any means, was a slog to get through and took me 3 months to read! Three months! I rarely bother to continue reading books that take me so long. As I mentioned in my Biggest Disappointments of 2017 (in which I included it because I had finished 70% and knew how I felt), I really hated the way Rick Riordan writes and I think that is why I couldn't connect with the story enough. Plus all his characters talk the same - everyone is snarky and sarcastic, and I just found everyone had the same voice. I did love all the Norse Mythology and Riordan's unique take on it, but not enough to get me to continue the series or picking up any of Riordan's other works. 



8. Cosmos by Carl Sagan (Audiobook, Narrated by Lavar Burton) - 3.5/5 stars

I listened to this on audiobook over the course of a few months - it was definitely a book that you had to be in the mood for. Much like the Cosmos TV show (which I've seen and loved) this is both a science show, mixed with a lot of philosophical questions. Narrated by Lavar Burton, this book is a wonderful listen, and was a great book to relax too when my eyes needed a rest from staring at a computer or at words. However; I did find that it was easy to zone out for some chapters and quite a few times I fell asleep. Most chapters were engaging but some were not, and for that reason my rating is a bit lower. Obviously, when talking about astronomy and physics, not all topics will be the same level of engaging for each reader but I found the later chapters to be much harder to focus on than the earlier ones. I still did enjoy it though, and Lavar Burton has an awesome voice. 


9. Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen (Audiobook, Narrated by Katherine Kellegren)- 3.5/5 Stars
I absolutely adored Katherine Kellgren's narration of My Lady Jane, and so I picked this book up on audiobook after giving the sample a listen. Once again, Katherine Kellgren's narration is absolute fantastic. I was completely drawn into the world of Lady Georgie, granddaughter of Queen Victoria and 37th in line for the English throne, and her whirlwind life as a poor royal in 1930s London. I loved Georgie (I like to think of her as Victoria since we share a name) and her upper class life. I loved how she was a broke royal and was working as a maid in disguise to get by. I loved Kellgren's narration and different voices for every character - it was so well-done and distinct that I had no problem discerning who was who. However; I think if I hadn't listened to this on audiobook I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much. For a murder mystery novel... the mystery is sort of non-existent. The murder doesn't even happen until almost halfway through the novel, and Georgie doesn't really solve the mystery or engage in solving it until the last couple of chapters. I found the suspect for the murder pretty obvious from the beginning, and by the time the end of the book came along I was getting a bit impatient for the story to wrap up. Overall, the audiobook narration makes a very mediocre murder mystery into something much better - and I may continue the series just to continue listening.  



10. The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman - 4/5 stars

So the first book in this series, The Dark Days Club, was on my Best Books of 2017 list. I absolutely loved the first book, which follows Lady Helen as she discovers she is born to be a rare breed of demon hunter and meets fellow demon-hunter the enigmatic Lord Carlston. Basically the series is Buffy the Vampire Slayer mixed with Pride and Prejudice and I loved it. The Dark Days Pact picks up directly where the first novel left off, with Lady Helen continuing her demon hunting under the tutelage of Lord Carlston and his aides. While I still really enjoyed the novel, it wasn't necessarily as good as the first one - I think because I had such high expectations going in. I did still love Helen as a character - she is an intelligent bad ass female in an era when women were supposed to be meek and mild. I love her and her determination. However; outside of Carlston and like 2 other male characters the sexism the rest of the men exhibit DROVE ME MAD, though I know it was supposed to. A character from the first book that I didn't care about, I absolutely hated this time around - I really need the Duke to just GO AWAY. He is infuriating. The story wasn't a bit slower paced I found this time, and while I still enjoyed the novel it just wasn't with the fervour I did the first time around. I particularly didn't enjoy the "problems' lord Carlston was having - which just felt like a cop-out plot device to keep the sexual tension from the first book high without really dealing with the romance directly. I do adore the angst-y romance of this novel though, and I love the feminism this I love the feminism this book displays through its capable female characters who stand up to all the asshole men in their life (of which there are a lot and see above the driving me mad part). I also am SO GLAD a gay character was introduced (and that I was 100% right when I guessed it in the first novel). I will continue this series however because the last 20% of the novel was fast-paced and riveting and ended on SUCH A CLIFFHANGER. Like damn, I need to know what happens. Great book, but not as good as the first one. 



11. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller - 4/5 stars

I had no plans to read this anytime soon, but I deiced to pick it up one evening when none of the books I was currently reading really caught my eye. I've always loved mythology and retellings but I've never been a big fan of the story of the Trojan War (I blame the movie Troy for making me hate it as a young girl). However; this character-driven tale of the romance between Achilles and his best friend Patroclus, set with the Trojan war in the backdrop was surprisingly good. I read it in one sitting because it was such a beautiful lyrical read, that I simply was swept along with the tale. I absolutely loved the beginning of the story, and it drew me in with its interesting writing style. The writing is really the strength of this novel - it is done in a unique way as to read modern but still capture the essence of Greek Myths and the books of Homer. I did find the story dragged a bit once the story reached the Trojan war, but then again so did most of the Greeks in Troy once the battle had been raging for a decade. I absolutely despised most of the characters, except Patroclus and a few select others - man those Greek heroes are jerks. But still, the beautiful writing and heart-breaking romance more than made up for my genuine dislike for pretty much every character. 



12. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie (Audiobook, Narrated by Jim Dale) - 4/5 Stars
This was my classic read for the month of January and I wasn't really expecting to like this as much as I did - I was never a huge fan of Peter Pan as a child, nor is the Disney movie my favourite one (in fact it's probably one of my least beloved). However; the audiobook narrated by Jim Dale really allowed me to appreciate the magic and whimsy of Barrie's words - I loved the narration and it definitely allowed me appreciate the magical and captivating writing of the story. I loved Barrie's depiction of children as selfish monsters (so true) and the third person narrator who informs the readers of little innocuous character details. I loved the heartbreaking ending (heartbreaking to me at least). However; I also did recognise a lot of problematic elements in the story - in part because of the time in which Barrie wrote his story. The depiction of First Nations people is... well it's not great. I found myself uncomfortable listening to it and reading it. Also let's just get it out there - Peter Pan is the worst. He's such an unbelievable little jerk. I liked Captain Hook more than Peter Pan! Despite these elements, I found myself drawn into the story for the most part and loved Jim Dale's narration. I would want to talk to someone though, more knowledgeable than myself on some of the depictions in the novel and see their thoughts. 


13. The Dark Monk by Oliver Potzsch - 2.5/5 Stars
After buying every single book available in the series last year and finally continuing after the first book, The Hangman's Daughter, I have to say - I'm pretty disappointed. The first book was such a wonderful historical mystery, with lovable if flawed characters. This book however; I felt like all my favourites had changed into negative versions of themselves. Simon was such an idiot in this book! And Magdalena was no longer a beautiful, misunderstood outcast with a hot temper - instead she was the stereotypical jealous woman who hated every other beautiful female. There was so much girl on girl hate in this story - and so much use of the words slut and whore. It really bothered me to hear every female be called slut and whore by so many different male (and female) characters. Maybe I read the first book so long ago I blocked it out, but I felt like this time around the female characters were all terribly written, and so clearly written by a man. The story also didn't read as smoothly - the translation of this novel (from the original German) was very poorly done - so many modern phrases were used! It completely pulled me out of the story. I am giving it 2.5 stars for the world itself and some of the characters (Jakob Kisul is still great) but this book was definitely not as great as the first one. I am sort of regretting picking up the next four books in this series... 



14. A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich  - 4/5 stars
If I were going to have kids and read them history stories before bedtime, I would read them this book. This was such a cute, delightful little history book - that described history and some of the worst historical events in ways that teach people but also sound poetic and tragic. The writing is really such a strength of this novel - it was so beautifully written and made history more like reading a story. I will admit that the book is definitely euro-centric (even as a Canadian I was like um HELLO? Are Australia and North America simply afterthoughts?) but I still enjoyed learning about different parts of Europe (I've really only studied Western European history myself). Obviously the whole world couldn't be covered but I can't give it a perfect star rating given that it white-washes history A LOT. But it was a nice palate cleanser between books and I think would be a wonderful way to introduce kids to history - I myself loved history as a child and used to read encyclopedias so I think I would've adored this. 



15. Nefertiti's Heart by A.W. Exely - 1/5 Stars
So I read about 60% of this book and then skimmed the rest - I think that still counts as reading it? As I mentioned above, every now and then I like to try out a new indie author to see if they're any good. I had high hopes that this steampunk-esque story in 1800s London would be similar to the Glass and Steele series by CJ Archer. But my god, this book was bad. It was all romance, no plot. Trigger Warnings are necessary because there is so much rape and abuse - and it angered me to no end that this rape and abuse was used as pretty much the sole defining element of the main female character's personality and story. But I really stopped reading when the main characters have sex in a treeYes. You read that right. A fucking tree - like ON A TREE BRANCH. The two main characters have their first time in a tree and the female character decides that she is now cured of all the trauma her childhood rape caused her. And that's when I stopped reading because it was ridiculous and my head exploded. 

16. A Rose for the Crown by Anne Easter Smith - 1.5/5 stars
I love anything to do with the Wars of the Roses, and I was absolutely obsessed with Richard III as a character in the Starz TV show The White Queen. However; I found this story, a romance following Richard III and the mother of his bastard children, to be quite dull and simply not the kind of romance I enjoy. There was so much telling instead of showing, and the writing itself was quite simplistic which didn't bring to life the vivid period in which this story is set. And the romance itself - it's like barely in the novel! I didn't enjoy the romance and while I applaud the author for allowing Richard III to be faithful to his Queen, it did mean the last third of the novel fell flat because the main love interests stopped being in love... and were just sort of there. I wasn't even sad with the tragic ending because I knew it was coming, but I also wasn't invested in the characters. This is very much historical-fiction lite, with none of the research and substance that I usually enjoy in such novels, and none of the engagement and emotion I usually have towards historical tragic tales. 


Books I Bought
# of Books I Bought: 44

Okay, so I was really bad this month and did not follow my Bookish Resolution to not buy books AT ALL. I didn't buy as many as I normally do, and I did get quite a few for free or as gifts - but I still bought way too many! Here's hoping in February I try to cut down! 

1.The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (Paperback) - I got this from a friends house when she was giving away some books!
2. The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas (Paperback) - same as above, my friend let me go through books she was giving away and I gained this 
3. The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellows (Paperback) - bought with Christmas gift cards. I saw this book had a Downtown Abbey connection and I had to get it
4. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (Hardback) - bought with Christmas gift cards. One of my most anticipated reads of the year. 
5. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Puffin in Bloom Edition) - bought with Christmas gift cards
6. The Girl in The Tower by Kathrine Arden (Hardback) - bought with Christmas gift cards
7. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (kindle edition) - I've heard such wonderful things about this series that I'm really hoping to discover a new favourite fantasy 
8. The Templars: History & Myth by Michael Haag (KIndle Edition) 
9. Bellamy and the Brute by Alicia Michaels (Kindle Edition) - FREE Kindle book
10. A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (Kindle Edition) 
11. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (Kindle Edition)
12. Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb (Kindle Edition)
13. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black (Kindle Edition) 
14. Nefertiti's Heart by A.W. Exley (Kindle Edition) - FREE Kindle Book 
15. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton(Kindle Edition)
16. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (Kindle Edition)
17. Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller (Kindle Edition) 
18. Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood  (Kindle edition) - I love Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries the TV show, and this is the book series it is based off of! I can't wait to dive into it 
19. Blood of the Fold by Terry Goodkind (Kindle Edition) - Sword of Truth series #3
20. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (Audiobook, Narrated by Michael Page)
21. The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon (Audiobook, Narrated by Alana Kerr Collins) 
22. Ink Mage by Victor Gischler (Audiobook, Narrated by Fiona Hardingham)
23. In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen(Audiobook, Narrated by Gemma Dawson)
24. The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli (Audiobook, Narrated by Pearl Mackie)
25. Everything All at Once by Bille Nye (Audiobook, Narrated by Bill Nye)
26. The Girl who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (Audiobook, Narrated by Christina Moore)
27. Warlock Holmes by G.S. Dennings (Audiobook, Narrated by Robert Garson)
28. Sherlock Holmes Complete Collection by Sir Arthur Conany Doyle (Audiobook, Narrated by Stephen Fry)
29. Beastly Bones by William Ritter (Audiobook, Narrated by Nicola Barber) - Jackaby Novel #2
30. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (Audiobook, Narrated by Anna Massey)
31. The TIme Traveller's Guide to Medieval England by Iam Mortimer (Audiobook, Narrated by Jonathan Keeble)
32. Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine (Audiobook, Narrated by Emily Sutton-Smith)
33. Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte (Audiobook, Narrated by Emilia Fox)
34. Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote (Audiobook, Narrated by Michael C. Hall)
35. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (Audiobook, Narrated by Anne Hathaway)
36. Red Rising by Pierce Brown (Audiobook, Narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds)
37. A Quiet Life in the Country by T.E. Kinsey (Audiobook, Narrated by Elizabeth Knowelden)
38. The Gold Son by Carrie-Ann Noble (Audiobook, Narrated by Gerary Doyle 
39. Brave New World by Aldous Huxlexy (Audiobook, Narrated by Michael York) 
40. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle (Audiobook, Narrated by Christopher Czenove
41. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (Audiobook, Narrated by Amanda Dolan)
42. The Unseen World by Liz Moore (Audiobook, Narrated by Lisa Flanagan) 
43. Romeo and Juliet: A Novel by David Hewson (Audiobook, Narrated by Richard Armitage)
44. Scythe by Neal Shusterman(Audiobook, Narrated by Greg Tremblay 


So that is my January wrap-up! Hopefully February shapes up to be just as good a reading month (with slightly less book purchases).